milan - italy 2003
seville - spain 2005
working schedule
Dealing with Ugliness
Proposals for the reevaluation of an industrial site.

The International Workshop 2005
Environment and Planning Department at the University of Aveiro - Portugal

Sao Joao da Madeira is a city close to Porto, located in the green hill sides southeast of Portugal's second largest city of. Aerial photos show houses, factories, and islands of green. Older buildings have apparently found their locations along the old national route No 1, now leading right through Sao Joao da Madeira, while newer ones are located in the vicinity of the new route No 1, passing at the outskirts. A radial pattern of streets along the old route indicates some kind of a city centre. Other photos, on eye level, reveal that this urban structure is hardly perceptable driving into and walking through Sao Joao da Madeira. Approaching the city, one passes houses, unifamiliar, detached, a shopping centre, some green, more houses, now multifamiliar, but clearly distinct, a factory, more green, a row of houses, now two stories high, another island of green, a group of villas, built by portuguese returning from the colonies, another factory, a parking lot, and so on, to finally arrive at a vast void, bordered by a 1940's cinema (now empty), some public ,palazzo', and a street closed to traffic with a steel-and-glass pergola and a few shops: the centre. What else would you name this agglomeration of houses, industries, shopping centres and parking but "periphery"?

The Oliva factory area is one of the most extended industrial complexes of Sao Joao da Madeira, and the one closest to the centre, reached on foot within minutes. The photos show a group of buildings, mainly from the 1930's and -40's. The administrative buildings are concrete rendered in a greyish plaster. Its windows are blind, since the owners went bankrupt, and the new owner, the bank, is waiting for the right moment to make the best possible profit. The production halls, also concrete structures and mostly with shed roofs, are all covered by a thick layer of reddish iron dust. Although still used in smaller parts by some tenants, there is no sign of necessary maintanance being under way. How desolate! These were our first impressions, when we (the local coordinators of the Intensive Programme "Strategies to re-evaluate the architectural and urban heritage of the early 20th Century: the case of the industries") met last October in Budapest and browsed the fotos our portuguese partners had collected.

Certainly, cities at the periphery never show a strong character, and abandoned factories are never pretty. Nevertheless, in this first moment we were struck by the banality and ugliness we saw in these photos. However, we soon realized the potentials to make Sao Joao da Madeira the subject of our third workshop. In the first workshop in Milan, we had worked on the "Fabbrica del Vapore", located right next to the pulsating China Town, just northeast of the metropolitan centre. For the second workshop, we moved to the atlantic ocean, to the peninsula of Sancti Petri, about 15 km away from Cadiz. In the first case, we studied the phenomenon of urbanity, currently undergoing fast and radical transformations, including forms of de-urbanisation, which means "peripherisation". In the other case, we worked on a kind of ideal industrial city, out in the countryside, now in the process of dis-solution, and on its way of becoming periphery itself.

In other words, we realized that Sao Joao da Madeira was the chance to work on yet another form of periphery, which could be defined as "in-between city and countryside". Comparing the workshop subjects, the case was similar. The "Fabbrica del Vapore" in Milan shows, although partly destroyed and badly reconstructed, still significant details and strong spaces, such as the so called "cathedral", very well able to convey its industrial past. At the same time, the city government tends to forget the "Fabbrica del Vapore" and the promises once given, but the public continues to be committed to the place. On the contrary, the "Consorzio Nacional Almadrabero Sancti Petri" has mostly fallen into ruins, but is in its decay strikingly pictoresque, a romanticist would say. Here, politicians seem to be completly desinterested, like most of the public. Whereas in the cas of Oliva, although described as rather ugly, the city government and the public, many of which are former workers of Oliva-Industries, seem very committed not to demolish but to keep the buildings and to readapt them to new uses. These include more sophisticated production of higher quality products, combined with forms of training skilled workers as well as of expositions open to the public. These specific characteristics made the Oliva Factory the perfect third case study, presenting again a very distinct "lab-situation" for testing the premises and intentions of our three year Intensive Programm "Strategies to re-evaluate the architectural and urban heritage of the early 20th Century: the case of the industries".


Very different experiences shape this Intensive Programme: seminars and design courses, e-learning and field trips, still in the home countries of the six participating schools, and, built on these foundations, the workshop, bringing together 36 students and 6 professors, and as about as many different experiences and points of view. This year's workshop, hosted by the University of Aveiro, was the third and final one. Its premises and intentions shall therefore only be named briefly here.

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